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Blogging: The art of Procrastination

The wonderful thing about blogging is you can do it whenever you want, about whatever topic you feel like. The perfect way to vent apart from smashing a hole in your door, which lets be honest is only satisfying if you break your hand in the process.

Author: confusedgoat

Age of Conan and FunComs flaws.

Posted by confusedgoat Thursday July 3 2008 at 1:20PM
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EDIT - Heavy wall of text imminent. I advise continuing only if you have alot of time on your hands or if you want a serious breakdown of the games flaws and the issues with FunComs service.

 

I actually just deleted about 2000 words of writing, because I got totally side tracked onto the topic of where MMOs were going in this day and age and the problems that developers and gamers alike faced when deciding, developing and playing an MMO post-WoW.

 

If I find more time I might actually dive into the above topic, however for now, an AoC rant is required for my personal sanity to remain in tact.

 

Age of Conan was possibly one of the most perfectly marketed games. It kept an incredibly tight grip on what information could be released from the closed beta and showed very small aspects of the game that looked new and innovative in order to sell pre-orders to the masses.

 

Once the pre-orders were in, the confessions and realities started showing. I'll use this space to give a detailed breakdown of promised content that is not in the game, and the errors in FunCom's thinking process.

 

The first is possibly the most obvious. Siege Warfare. Siege warfare was promised to be huge battles with up to 500 players laying waste to a siege. While the realist always knew this was impossible, we still all saw the video of the demonstration, where siege warfare did infact look immensely possible. The sad reality leaked out a few days before release, that Siege Warfare would sadly only be 48v48 man. At the time I remember being thrilled about this announcement, it left way for an affordable TS / Vent server and also meant that smaller more organised contingents of players would be able to stick it to the Zerg Guilds. The sad fact of siege warfare is that it was, as were most things, bugged and clearly hadn't been play tested. Many siege walls could be bypassed or avoided, some bugged on animation changes and simply allowed players to walk through them. Siege weapons didn't work. The merc system didn't work either, so players had to guild hop in order to support alliances. Players could find themself spawn camped if they died or even ported out of th zone completely as it was not locked. The actual method of deciding the victory was also heavily flawed. Whether or not the keep was torn down didn't decide victory, it was based off points scored, which made no sense.

 

My next bone to pick was the "Combo" system. While originally the Combo system sounded like an amazingly innovative system, it ended up being nothing more than a horrendous implementation of a mini-game of Dance Dance Revolution to activate a skill. By combo myself, and many others, were expecting experimenting with attack directions and learning the results, giving us a much more full bodied character-learning experience. However what we got was, as stated, a little mini-game of DDR before every skill activation. More to our dismay learning these combo directions also didn't help. The swiftness and accuracy of combos often didn't matter, rather you had to enter the swings at a certain (slow) pace or button mash them to register. Deft fingers and quickness of mind didn't help, and rather hindered you.

 

Next was the "mounted combat". Mounted combat promised to be so much, it promised to be something that previously had never been tapped. I had never previously experienced mounted combat in an MMO before. And similarly, I wish i never had. The promises of speed effecting your mounted damage turned out ot be myths. Mounted combat itselft was often simply swinging of the sword. The promise of being able to do a hit and run attack was a myth for all classes (unless you're a rogue with quick-dismount). The dream of heroic cavalry charges or rapid flanks and ambushes were dashed.

 

The crafting system was incredibly frustrating. Even if you ignore all of the bugs that surrounded it, FunCom had missed the point of crafting. Crafting progression could only essentially reach it's full potential (or at least it's useful potential) if you were in a guild that had a T3 City. Crafting has often been the love of the more casual gamer, who simply fancies making a name for themselves with a bit of farming and making fine weapons for adventurers with more time than themselves to use. They don't need to make their class their passion, simply their craft. FunCom failed to tap into this and rather ended up with a crafting system that neglects those who are unable to get into a guild that has the players, time or resources to farm a T3 city, and also neglects players up to level 40.

 

The PvP itself was undesirable. Other than the pleasure of ganking some prat you've seen in OOC chat, there was little reward. If someone ganked you, you either raged and got revenge, or decided it was useful and used it as a free lift to the nearest zone spot. Mini-games were included without there being any rewards for partaking in such small and pointless tasks. Yes, you received guild points, but in all honesty most of the servers are no longer left with a player base large enough for 900 players sieging, so your guild is normally guaranteed a spot any way if you choose to lay siege. This may all change with the upcoming PvP patch, but even so PvP was promised to be a new and immersive blood thirsty experience. All it looks like to me is a mash up of WoW's PvP system and Guild Wars combat mechanics with fatalities included.

 

The levelling, was possibly the most decieving part of AoC.  Tortage was possibly one of the most immersive and exciting starting zones I've ever experienced. Yes there is only one start zone, which is dissappointing. But it was beautiful and had unequalled design. There were quests that had you fighting a demon bat atop the Acheronian Ruins, leaving you to see the full extent of the games beauty (and leaving you to fall hundreds of feet through the ruins to the ground below should you be careless in the fight itself). After that you are once again followed by immersive and exciting zones. I never appreciated the Wildlands, but Conalls Valley and Kopshef both gave off a great impression and immersed the player into both the are and it's culture. Kopshef admittedly had bugged instances, but it could be forgiven. After this however things started turning sour. The imagination and magic died out when you reached Noble District and Field of the Dead. The quests become dull and you noticed the grind while doing them. You noticed your hard earned blue gear rapidly being replaced by shoddy greens. Your character development started feeling less and less worth while. By the time you hit 50-60 grinding became common place to level up during holes in th questing experience. 65-70 was also pretty much a solid grind, as was 74-80. The worst part around the levelling experience is that it doesn't feel like FunCom ran out of time, rather it leaves the player feeling like the developers ran out of passion. It feels as though the developers lost the love for their work, and it reflects in the content that was left post 40.

 

The customer support provided by FunCom was dire to say the least. Petitions could take hours if not days to recieve a response, and due to the time it took to get a response you'd often find yourself missing your turn in the queue because you were offline when a GM finally got to you. There is no phone support as far as i know, me and a friend managed to find a contact number somewhere on the box / in the manual, but the number was not in use. The hoards of complaints and bugs that went without response was disheartening to say the least.

 

The bugs, and the methods that the devs went about fixing them. Classes seem to get broken worse and worse before they are deemed as "fixed". The most agitating example is FunComs most recent "fix". The epic loot is near on useless. Bear shaman loot with 1handed blunt damage and Herald of Xotli loot with 2h blunt damage. Simple mistakes in stats, however these small mistakes led players to seek alternative equipment in order to gear their character for endgame. This came in the form of crafted armour. There was a bug with crafted armour where Defense ratings were higher than they were supposed to be. The "fix" caused the gem slots of the gear to vanished. Players had farmed for days on end to get the correct gems for their gear, and not only did the gem slots vanish, the farmed gems along with them. The only response was an apology, with a joke (in poor taste may i add), from the developers that said the gem slots were not meant to vanish, however they will be restored as soon as possible. The gems the slots held though, recieved no comment or response from the developers. Something I also couldn't believe is that within the first month of launch, one of the senior developers (and the only developer that apparently represented the English Euro forums) went on a holiday. This may be seen as petty and selfish, however it sent off the wrong message to a large portion of the community.

 

The endgame encounters themselves are far from challenging, and get broken / fixed on a regular basis. I won't say much on this topic as I don't want to include spoilers. I'll simply say every T1 boss is dull, and doesn't offer a sense of accomplishment.

 

I could go on, but I'm running out of steam now. Things such as the cencorship, the broken promises (even the ones listed on the back of the box), the travel system, the untapped potential, the method by which instanced zones are managed, the horrendous guild management system and similarly the somewhat pathetic raid management system. There's plent I haven't mentioned, I simply don't have the time (nor the energy) to continue listing the flaws with this game.

 

There are strengths, do not get me wrong. FunCom has brought some wonderful potential to the industry, and I still believe that given time (and from a more critical view a re-assessment of it's employees) it may emerge as one of the ground breaking MMOs out there. However when it comes to choosing an MMO it comes down to enjoyment, and your commitment towards the game in question often comes down to how heavily the pros of playing outweigh the cons.

 

I came into this game with a pre-made guild of 39 friends, all of the founding members of which are real-life friends of mine. I'm now left with 4/5 active players from the original 39, and we had to resort to abandoning the guild to merge with another.

 

That to me is the largest problem with this game, and you may blame it on whatever reasons you see fit. However, when you log on to a game and the friends you've come to enjoy sharing your online experiences with are no longer active and haven't logged on for days, it leaves little insentive to play.

 

Apologies for this being quite long, I'm impressed if you've read this far. I'm not really sure whether I've left many topics open for discussion as this is mainly a run down of the games flaws, however feel free to post your own personal opinion, or elaborate on any of my mentioned/unmentioned topics.

 

Robbie - 77 Guardian

Beved - 80 Bear Shaman

Wildsoul PvP-EN Server.